Woodmar Mall, a Hammond institution since 1954, is about to be visited by the wrecking ball, and at least one of the five stores remaining on its concourse has been told to vacate by next week.
The mall at 6508 Indianapolis Blvd., owned by Praedium Development Corp., will be torn down in stages and new stores built, Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said Tuesday. A new Carson Pirie Scott store is expected to anchor the redeveloped property.
"The initial plan was to begin demolishing the south part of the mall," McDermott said. "After that, they'll pour a pad and build the new Carson's, transfer the contents to the new store, open the new Carson's, and then demolish the old store.
"We'll have the renderings and announcement very soon."
The mayor said he and George Markopoulos, managing principal of Northbrook-based Praedium Development Corp., have a confidentiality agreement that prohibits him from releasing any further details of the project.
Markopoulos did not return calls for comment.
"I know he's interested in getting started," McDermott said. "It's a big development for him and for us. We're happy to have a developer like George Markopoulos. ... But I can't talk about what the city's commitment is, who will be in the new mall, or what it will look like."
The mayor said he understands that the redeveloped shopping center will be similar to Town Square Shopping Center, Praedium's development at the intersection of Main Street and Indianapolis Boulevard in Schererville.
The 145,000-square-foot Town Square strip center development is home to Old Navy, Bo-Rics, Linens 'N Things, Bath & Body Works, American Mattress and Clothestime, Shoe Carnival, T.J. Maxx, Sears Appliance and several free-standing stores including H-Dog, Panera Bread, Kilwin's Chocolates & Ice Cream and Walgreen's.
In Hwa Chung, owner of the Edge Activewear store in Woodmar, received a letter from Markopoulos dated Monday informing him his lease had been terminated as of Feb. 1, and asking him to vacate his store by Feb. 17.
Chung, who operated stores in Woodmar for 14 years, said Markopoulos has asked him if he planned to reopen there once the new mall is built.
"I like it," Chung said. "It's a good mall. I come back if the price is right."
Chung will move whatever merchandise that's not sold in the next week to his store in Westfield Southlake. He said there have been rumors about the demolition of the mall for months, even years, but now it appears to be happening.
Chung and employees at the other four stores still open along the mall's concourse said they've repeatedly, though never officially, heard plans call for everything in the mall except the Carson Pirie Scott store to be demolished, possibly before April.
Carson's, which has been the mall's anchor tenant since 1954, leases a tad less than half of the mall's 230,000 square feet. Its lease runs through 2007 with an option for three additional five-year extensions. Calls for comment to its corporate spokesman were not returned.
Although McDermott wouldn't provide any information on Hammond's role in Woodmar's renewal, in August 2005, Peter Novak, the city's executive director of planning and development, said a company was in negotiations with the city on some type of unspecified tax abatements, tax relief or other incentives for the enclosed mall.
In February 2005, the city's Redevelopment Commission approved a plan to develop the entire 120 acres around the mall into a unified commercial and retail shopping center. According to that redevelopment plan, Hammond was to provide nearly $8 million for sewer, water and utility upgrades in the area, as well as widen and improve 165th and 167th streets to leverage $30 million in private investment at the site.
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